Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sunday February 12, 1:00 p.m.

Well, Happy Birthday, pops!

So far, the Olympics haven't been too impressive for the Japanese. The big hopes in the Women's Moguls dissipated as quickly as an exhalation on the slopes. Aiko Uemura could only finish 5th while her other two mates finished much lower. Happily, though (and I thank heavens for my binational heritage), it happened to be a Canadian who got the Gold in that event. Still, with one ski jumper pulling out due to a bad back and the Japanese contingent in Nordic Combined finishing far behind the pack, it hasn't been an auspicious start for the country.Speaking of sports, the Tokyo International Marathon is being run as I type. Pretty chilly weather for the runners at only 8 C.

That little "smokin'-in-the-bathroom" incident by Ai Kago has had its effect on the weekly Morning Musume show. What was supposed to have been advertised as a big Valentine's Day-themed quiz involving the whole gang was shaved down to just 5 minutes since it is assumed that the errant young lady was in that bit. Talk about being persona non grata. Instead, they put in a whole bunch of previously aired segments.

It was nice of The Teacher to offer me other days to teach her since the next two Fridays will be locked off with entertaining out-of-town friends. I've got plenty of time midweek.

Looks like I'll be heading out to Speedy's in about an hour for that cooking session. Well, at least I'll get a decent homecooked meal and get some business out of the way. I do kinda wonder if Mr. Influence and his students would appreciate the intrusion of a guy who won't be involved in the process. Mind you, I am shucking out 3900 yen.
Saturday February 11, 9:45 p.m.

Well, the Olympic Games have begun. I just watched a condensed version of the Opening Ceremonies on NHK tonight. Yup, the usual abstract art posing as entertainment before and after the entrance of the athletes. However, there were a few surprises here and there. Before I'd left for work this morning, I did see a bit of the live broadcast but decided to watch it with the sound off while listening to Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" (it just seemed to fit better) from his 1986 album "So". Then I discovered that the guy himself is at the Ceremonies playing "Imagine" after Yoko Ono gives a non-screeching speech (sorry...couldn't resist). That little ability of mine can be downright eerie at times. I did enjoy watching the entrance of the athletes if only for the background music whose theme must've been Haruhiko's Songs of His Youth. Yeah, Donna Summer, Village People and all those disco classics. Kinda reminded me of all those times at the school dances where I was plastered against the cafeteria wall like a swatted fly. Then, there were the ladies bringing in the Olympic flag among whom were Sophia Loren and Susan Sarandon (I bet the Republicans looked pretty sour....wonder how Mrs. Bush felt up there in the stands).

Finally got word from Skippy. As expected, she's declined the invitation for that cooking session at Speedy's tomorrow. No word from Speedy yet, though. I also got a rare message from one of The Tea Room Ladies after so long. She was wondering if I would be going to one of her old mates' concert on the 19th. I had to give my own regrets to her since I already have the kids that morning and then dinner at Kimu Katsu.

The Israeli team at Turin may be getting a bit of gravitas in the next few hours since Sharon has gone into emergency surgery. Doesn't look good for the ol' warhorse. But then again, it won't be a surprise at all since the man had pretty much left the scene at the beginning of the year.

Otherwise, it's been a quiet Saturday night at the old homestead.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Saturday February 11, 4:34 p.m.

Got my second giri choco of the Valentine's Day season. However, it was actually a chocolate-chip cupcake by the Elder. I was sincerely grateful for her gift since she and Mother had been doing their usual verbal battle in the kitchen while I was teaching the Junior. And the Elder has actually been talking up a storm in English. I'm not sure if she had seen the light or if the Mother gave her an ultimatum about being nicer to me. Whatever it is, I'm happy. Mum and I had a brief talk on medical checkups. For some reason, doctors here have a morbid fascination with that most feared of instruments, the endoscope. As the prefix of that word will inform, it is that tube with the camera which is thrust into your mouth, down your esophagus and into your stomach. Mum has to have it done yearly because of the discovery of a polyp in hers a while back. I haven't had mine done yet and I'm not in any particular hurry to get one done. She did reassure me that I have the option of getting the endoscope with or without anaesthetic. I would be very happy to get a bit of that laughing gas as she does although she warned me that the worst case scenario for those folks who happen to be allergic to being knocked out is...well... death. That would end all of my worries right then and there. And I've been seeing up on the subway ads that there is one clinic in which they perform the endoscope by putting it through your nose instead of your mouth. As if that's any more comfortable...however, the ad boasted that 80% of those who have done it nasally swear by it when compared to the old oral method.

After that bit of talk, I went over to Akihabara, my first trip there this year. I had to go check some prices for Gundam robots for the Wild One since he has a fascination for them. Hmm..I wonder how long that hobby will last with a Japanese girlfriend. In any case, they're not cheap but the stores I went to would make a Gundam fan drool passionately. Because it was a national holiday, the main street was closed off to vehicular traffic and so there was the main pedestrian population of otakus and maids walking around on the pavement. One such girl dressed in something bright red was attracting quite a crowd of men of all ages. As the otakus would gleefully yell, "MOE!" I saw one gaggle of maids: two pairs of differently dressed girls which made me think they were from competing maid cafes were having a nice little chit-chat. I guess it would be kinda interesting to just stick around for a few hours and soak up the weird atmosphere. But I decided to head back home.

I had lunch at the neighbourhood tonkatsu shop. Same old quiet crowd of couples and single men. I would never see a single woman come into the place despite the fact that there are waitresses (nowhere near like maids...these are middle-aged housewife types). Just had my C set of chicken katsu, fried chicken and fried fish with rice, pickles, miso soup and tons of shredded cabbage. That should tide me over til dinner.

Got home to see that NHK has started its Olympic coverage with another one of those chit-chat sessions. Japanese TV continues its tradition of bringing on celebs who have no business being on a sports telecast other than for rooting value. The NHK folks brought on singer Ayaka Hirahara who has provided the theme song for the channel's coverage of the Turin Games just because she did provide the theme song. Nice face, lovely smile...little else. Don't get me wrong. She's a fine singer...don't know what she's doing on a sports show.

Wondering if I will "have to" go to Speedy's tomorrow to "help out" with that cooking session by Mr. Influence. Skippy never got back to me about going to it despite my invitation and I would frankly prefer not to pay the 3900 yen and the transportation fee to get there and back if no else is going.
Friday February 10, 10:49 p.m.

Had another happy one with The Teacher today. We initially talked about the upcoming festival of Valentine's Day...a bona fide boom day for all the chocolatiers in Japan. Apparently, there is a ranking system for the chocolates given out. At the top of the chain is homemade chocolate made by ladies for their true loves (no...they don't go to Columbia and pick out those cacao beans...there are kits available in Tokyo) while the second and third tiers belong to the store-bought ones for colleagues or bosses...the so-called giri choco or obligation chocolate. And at the bottom of the list is the chocolate saved for hubby. I cracked that most wives probably toss some unboiled cacao beans at the guys. It must be galling for the men, though, that they can drop from first to worst in the eyes of their significant others.

Had my own...rare...encounter with Cupid years ago when I was on the JET Programme. A student at the junior high school I was teaching at left some homemade (alright!...OK, I was a bit too old for her) chocolate for me. The big problem was that this mystery girl (never left a name; just a message of...well, that shall remain private) left her sweet creations in the morning in my shoes that I always deposited in my geta bako (shoe box) at the front foyer of the school (yup, we gotta pad about in our slippers or sandals throughout the day) Well, you can imagine what leaving anything organic will end up like if it's placed in a couple of shoes in an enclosed environment for several hours. Sure enough, it was like getting homemade natto in those straw husks. My creations had that wonderfully cocoa flavour teased with the hint of feet...uh-huh. And I never found out who that girl was. Kinda like Charlie Brown's Little Red-Haired Girl. I think my luck also matched that of the bald-headed kid.

The Teacher's article du jour was on a Japanese/American duo for the figure skating pairs which was originally published a couple of years ago. The pair is Rena Inoue and John Baldwin of the US. The two of us kinda raised our eyebrows when we came upon the line "That one tryout turned into a partnership...on and off the ice." Hmmmm....we said. Then again you have a man and a woman in intimate contact with each other on the ice for several hours a day for months on end....well, what are you gonna get? I once again cracked that it sounded like a typical tryst at NOVA...except for the ice part, that is.

After my session, I took off for the outlands of Ichikawa and made my 30-second existence at the Tax Office to pick up that tax deduction sheet. A whole hour of commuting for just those 30 seconds. Well, at least I can finaly get started filling in all the blanks now for my tax return. I stopped off on the way back to the station at a convenience store to check out that new issue of Friday Magazine for the notorious shot of Ai Kago smoking a ciggie. Yup, it was her. The picture was fuzzy as all heck but it was definitely her with that Virigina Slims at her fingertips. I laughed a little scornfully when I remembered what one of the guys on the Morning Musume forums said about the magazine digging up the truth on the matter. Maybe Friday did get their man (or aidoru) but the search for truth and justice wasn't a priority with that magazine. I think it was more of a case of the buringu, buringu.

I then made the long trip all the way down to Omotesando since I had a hankering for those Hansens hot dogs once again. As it turned out, I walked down the grand avenue and saw Tadao Ando's and Minoru Mori's recent architectural creation in person. Omotesando Hills will not open officially until tomorrow so none of us could get inside the complex. However, there were still plenty of TV crews and curious spectators gawking at the gleaming steel, plastic and glass structure. For a Friday afternoon, there were plenty of kids milling about on the street and at the Hansens as well. I guess the Japanese have finally embraced frankfurter culture.

Walked down to Shibuya from Omotesando. With the higher temperature of 12 C and me in my UNIQLO coat, I was kinda do a slow broil inside but at least I knew I was burning calories. Shibuya seemed less crowded than the place I'd left...maybe the "it" spot was finally shifting away from the so-called Teen Mecca of Japan. Stopped off at Tower Records and ended up getting the Oscar issue of Entertainment Weekly. The writers were doing their lame best again with their fawning prose to bookend the actual meat of each of the nominees. Still, I needed the reading material. That Vanity Fair issue with nude Scarlett Johannsen and Keira Knightley wasn't there but I think it'll take a few days for it to arrive. I heard that there are a few more bare-all celebs inside as well including one Peter Skaarsgard in Japanese bondage ropes. What? Were Cameron, Lucy and Drew too busy making "Charlie's Angels 3" ?

Took the Ginza Line up to Toranomon to make an early arrival at the Starbucks...2.5 hours early to be exact. The baristas there are pretty good the afternoon was fading away, it was bossa nova. Then when night finally descended, it was time for the straight jazz. I was also fading after drinking down my Tazo Chai Latte and devouring a sugar doughnut. Hooray for diabetes! I couldn't do the crosswords since my pen was doing a Spirograph design instead of putting real letters in so I had to take a quick walk to the can and read a bit of the EW to wake up.

The OL was also a bit off tonight...or I think I should clarify and say that she thought she was off tonight. Every time she made a mistake, she just dropped her head onto the table in utter defeat. She wasn't that bad, really. But it looks like she and Betty Boop are ready for another in our yearlong series of gourmet hopping. I asked her to get in touch with her buddy and see what we can pull off in the next few weeks. Lastly since we got into the topic of the now wanton woman, Ai Kago, and my viewing of an English-speaking Hiroshi Tachi, The OL pushed the envelope a little further by stating that she had sighted actress Hitomi Kuroki at the Jiyugaoka branch of Kinokuniya Supermarket. Kuroki is this 40ish beauty who was in the original version of "Dark Water", the J-horror tribute with Jennifer Connelly in her stead. She's also a graduate of the Takarazuka Revue, that finishing school/acting troupe of all girls who do florid stuff like "The Rose of Versailles". Quite a few actresses have entered mainstream TV and movies from that high-falutin' version of Morning Musume.

Looks like the Japanese media is raring to go on the Turin Olympics. NHK started a countdown tonight. About 4 hours and counting. We're 8 hours ahead of Italy so the Opening Ceremonies will be taking place at about 5 a.m. our time. I've seen enough of those things not to get too worked up about not seeing it. I do need my beauty sleep especially when I have the kids. I was hearing from the bunch back in Canada and the States that they have barely heard anything about the Games. I'm not that surprised least, in the case of the USA. The Americans probably take them for granted as they assume another Red, White & Blue steamroller during medal time. But Japan, being a relatively smaller country, has always been hungrier when it comes to Olympic Gold which is rather nice to see although the media often gets annoyingly too rah-rah on screen. Well, you can't have it both ways, I guess. In any case, the Japanese Olympic Team has gotten their secret weapons ready to go including figure skater Miki Ando, the only woman on the planet who has pulled off 4 spins during a routine, moguls girl Tae Satoya and one guy who seems to be the king on the stovepipe.

Looks like the Kumamoto Prefectural Government found 6 buildings that may not be to quake specs. But these aren't Aneha-plagued structures but constructions by another potentially corrupt firm. No surprise there. Aneha has always been seen as just the tip of the iceberg. And PM Koizumi has decided to shelve the bill for amendment of the Imperial Succession Law. No surprise there was just too much of a hot potato and now with the announcement of Princess Kiko's pregnancy, the opposition had too much ammo. Corporate whipping boy and jailbird Takafumi Horie is finishing up his 3 weeks in his cell so the prosecutors have to get new indictments on him by Monday. He's still sticking to his story that he didn't know anything about the crimes his underlings have already admitted to. Yeah, right. The media, rightly or wrongly, has already painted him as tainted goods.

Well, I've just got the kids tomorrow on this national holiday....the one that everyone can't remember: National Founding Day. Perhaps if it were renamed Omotesando Hills Opening Day, February 11 would get more respect. But hey, I guess I'm in pretty good with The Teacher. I got my giri choco.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Friday February 10, 8:57 a.m.

Well, kinda appropriate that I'm putting this entry in on this day of the week. Since it looks like another Musume got FRIDAY'd! Kinda like the Japanese equivalent of being PUNK'd; except there isn't any Ashton Kutcher to come out and say that everything was in good fun (not that a lot of his victims get the joke). I was watching the entertainment segment of the Fuji-TV morning news show "Mezamashi Terebi" when my clone, Mr. Karube, showed what was hot on the newspapers.

Well, it seems like former Morning Musume member/pop tart, Ai Kago, just turned 18, was caught on camera smoking a Virigina Slims in an Ebisu restaurant. OH, NO! Quel horreur! It's the MM version of the Black Sox scandal! Say it ain't so, (Ka)go! As we all know here, it's illegal for anyone under 20 to smoke the sin sticks. Oops! It's also illegal for any visual and print media to give the name of a criminal (it's hard to visualize this girl rolling Luckys up her sleeve) under that same age so the press has only identified her as "A-san" or "a former MM member". And here I initially thought that Karube and the papers were being coy. The guys on the Musume forums certainly brought this thread up to No. 1 with a bullet since this story broke in the last several hours.

Now, for the analysis. Hmm...let's see. We've had teenage prostitution, underage drinking and smoking, and bad fashion. Female smoking has been on the increase for some years. And so, one famous little girl was smoking (I assume, it was surrepetitiously done...she knows she's an aidoru) in a restaurant. So what? Well, I think I should've mentioned this in my treatise on the world of aidoru several days ago...they have to be perfect famous little girls. People can accept imagining any dark side that these pop tarts have but they won't accept (at least the press and certain fans won't) actually seeing this dark side in action in public. So, nope...we won't see a Musume shooting up before a variety show appearance, we won't have a Musume having a drunken fistfight with the manager of a Kabukicho bar (et, tu..Tae Satoya?) and we won't see a Musume getting into an amorous clinch inside a car with a boyfriend (the Prime Directive in MM seems to be "Thou shalt not cavort openly with a member of the opposite sex"...unfortunately, former member Mari Yaguchi didn't quite read that one...she got FRIDAY'ed last year).

It seems the height of hypocrisy to have most of female society get into the usual vices and assume that the aidoru segment would go the same way but then go into paroxysms of horror and disappoinment when one of that segment gets caught. After all, aren't we all human? Well, it would seem that at this age of our million years of development, image is everything. And the aidoru's must be airtight and pristine, no matter what. Ai Kago is indeed guilty of breaking the law of underage smoking since it sends a bad message to all those under-20'ers out there (though, I think there are probably whole schools' worth of puffing girls in the country) but, more importantly, in the eyes of showbiz, she's guilty of breaking her image as the perfect aidoru.

The punishment hasn't been made clear although a scheduled Saturday appearance by her duo, W, has been cancelled. Perhaps she will be forced to smoke high-tar Camels instead...
Thursday February 9, 9:48 p.m.

Went to the new and improved gym for the second time this month. Had a gabby woman pelt me with questions about how to use the machines. Does it look like I'm a staff member? I was able to answer where the start button to the aerobike but then she asked about other stuff and I just looked at askance at her. Wise lady...she smiled and nodded off and left me alone. However, the young staffer got the brunt of the woman's grilling...hey, that's his job. Now, I understand why SIL doesn't like going to gyms all that much.

Relatively busy for a Thursday night at The Tea Room. Had a trio of men talking shop next to me while at another table, it seemed like one lady was the alpha member of her little court. The Carolinan had one of those compensatory days off since she worked one weekend last year so she did some shopping of course. She lugged in a couple of bags, including a handbag which looked like something Cruella DeVille handcrafted.

Back home...gotta get on those lesson plans for The OL and the kids on Saturday. Plus, I gotta find out how to say that tax form for deductions in Japanese since I'll be heading for the tax office to pick it up after my lesson with The Teacher. Really don't like going up there since it's in such a remote area.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Thursday February 9, 11:14 a.m.

Another exciting night in Washington D.C. Black tie press event, chemical agent scare...ho hum. Turned on CNN to see a dramatically debonair Ed Henry report on some alert in one of the Senate Buildings for a chemical or biological agent. Some senators and staffers ended up having a mandatory garage party. Looks like it'll be a false alarm but it was serious enough that Dr. Sanjay Gupta didn't flash his pearly whites even once.

Good golly...I just heard from Kelli Arena that she had been on the scene during the sarin attack on the Tokyo subways and then she just said that she wasn't sure if anyone really died during that incident. Well, thousands affected and 12 deaths! Get it together, lady!

Well, I've been having my running talk with The Wild Guy. His girl has been running a tight ship with him in terms of his health. I guess what they say about behind every good man is true, but the nagging....
Thursday February 9, 1:40 a.m.

Now, why would I be up at 1:40 a.m. on a Thursday morning? Well, because I underestimated the time needed to proofread one of The Tulip's essays and I got bluescreened by my dying computer. Well, at least it's done and out to her.

Looks like I got a Student No. 006 at Speedy's now. The model lesson went satisfactorily enough so that it's pretty much a done deal. Now, we have to figure out what her curriculum will be. It'll be a challenge, though. She's wildly off-and-on when it comes to her grammar: highly skilled at times and pretty rough-and-tumble at other times. I'm just happy to get another student on the books, though.

Had a good laugh at the latest CNN headline: "Bush Calls for End to Cartoon Violence". Yup, I agree that Wile E. Coyote and Sylvester have suffered enough at the hands of the vile Road Runner and Tweety Pie.

Time to hit the hay.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Wednesday February 8, 10:12 a.m.

A bit of an eye-opener on the news this morning. Vanity Fair had Annie Leibowitz do a most unusual cover with Scarlett Johannsen and Keira Knightley pose nude with some clothed Lothario in the middle nuzzling the latter's neck. Well, it certainly was better than the grape juice I had for breakfast. I've got a feeling that that issue will go like hotcakes this week; of course, the articles, I'm sure, are very compelling. I don't think we've had a magazine cover that exciting since Demi Moore.

Over here, celebs going nude is nothing new (that sounded almost like a haiku). But the weeklies in Japan don't allow for a lot of space for anything like that to happen since the publishers seem to have the need to cram as much kanji onto the front cover as possible. However, there was a time in the 90s in which just about any famous female star under the age of 50 was baring all inside the covers of magazines or some photobook in the attempts to get attention. This actress wasn't the pioneer of the phenomenon but Rie Miyazawa in 1991 had slobbering men lined up around the corner of the bookstores of Tokyo when she released her book of tastefully nude photos called "Santa Fe". At that time, she was still this young, beautiful and sassy woman barely out of her teens who appeared in all sorts of commercials and TV dramas with the image of a conventional teen of the times when she decided to go au naturel. I'd say that she pretty much hit that ball out of the park. Since those heady days, she's undergone some ups and downs including some scary weight loss but she's now established as a leading actress without all the minute-to-minute hoopla to wear down on her.

Well, I'm ready for 001 tonight. I still gotta nail down what I'm gonna do with this friend of Speedy's for a trial lesson. Hopefully, she will become Student 006.
Tuesday February 7, 10:47 p.m.

It was kinda nice heading over to the juku tonight despite or because of the fact that I only had that one class with the Milds and McGirl. I didn't have to shift mental gears between the classes; it was just get ready for my lone lesson. However, The Siberian should be back next week; and I certainly hope after the boss talked with him last night that he'll pull his share of the load and inform me about what he would like to actually learn. The cat has apparently moved downstairs since it's warmer there. It also helps that his main rival, an old rabbit, went to that hutch in the sky last weekend.

As expected, the top story on NHK tonight was about the 6-week pregnancy of Princess Kiko. Also as expected, those family tree charts showing the possibly altered line of succession were thrown up. At this point, if the new addition to the family is a boy, he would become 3rd in line, next to Crown Prince Naruhito and then his dad, Prince Akishino. Knowing how microscopically the media likes to analyze things Imperial, genetics will most likely be investigated over the next several months until delivery day in September. But I'm sure there will be a full court press when the foetus is big enough so that gender can be determined. Heck, newspapers were giving out extras on the street tonight. I couldn't even imagine that happening with the Fleet Street guys in London. Politically, the MPs in Nagatacho are playing hot potato although they are happy for the Imperial couple. A lot of the guys who don't want to amend the Imperial Succession Law to allow women to ascend to the throne are trying to get Koizumi to not push any amendments by the end of his time as PM...ironically this September. This should be the political soap opera of the year.

Speaking of politicians and children, I couldn't imagine this type of thing happening in the States or Canada without the public sneering en masse but over here, we've got two grown children of mighty important pols who are celebs in their own right without the public batting so much as an eyelash. Yoshi-something Ishihara is the son of Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara and the nephew of pop culture legend Yujiro Ishihara and therefore a de facto member of the Ishihara Gundan, Japan's equivalent of The Rat Pack. He's the only non-politician son. In fact, he's the jolly weatherman on the nightly news telecasts on Fuji-TV and a frequent tarento...a somewhat less cool profession considering the cachet of the Gundan. Mind you, he doesn't particularly look nearly as dashing as fellow members like Hiroshi Tachi or Masaaki Kanda (ex-Mr. Seiko Matsuda No. 1) or the current head Tetsuya Watari. He kinda strikes me as being a mascot. But he is still his own celeb. He doesn't seem to be overshadowed by his father or uncle.

Then, there's the son of PM Koizumi who's an actor on TV and movies. He roughly has his father's face. Not much to say about him since I don't watch dramas as a matter of course anymore but I did see him as a sullen computer nerd on that police movie "Odoru Dai Sosasen" a couple of years ago.

A bit of a tragedy down in the subways today. At Nagatacho Station (yup, right across from the Diet) on the Hanzomon Line, an oldtimer security guard was run over and killed by a ticket machine which was supposed to have been transported up the steep stairs and hauled away by a couple of maintenance workers. Unfortunately, there was a slip on those stairs and the machine just sped on down.

Well, I can only hope that the weather is more accurately forecast tomorrow. Only got up to 8 C instead of that 15. And there was no sun at all. No apologies from the weatherfolks but then what could they say?
Tuesday February 7, 5:27 p.m.

Perhaps the media ought to give Prince Akishino the English name of "Randy". I turned on the TV a few minutes ago to find out that his wife, Princess Kiko, is preggers again with a third child. Looks like most of the stations were covering the story. Hmmm...there has been all this hubbub about the possibility of princesses becoming empresses, and then this story pops up. How very conveeenient, as The Church Lady used to say. Of course, the pundits are now up and running with their Imperial family tree charts showing the various permutations and combinations of succession depending on whether the new baby is a boy or a girl. Mind you, if it is another girl, the head of The Imperial Household Agency will probably shoot himself. Just can't believe the so-called run of bad luck that The Imperial Family has had on this point. Since the birth of Randy, there hasn't been a single male heir born in the last 40 years.

While the media has been running around like decapitated chickens, I was listening to my new tape of jazz. I must've been very sleepy...I slept through "Mack the Knife", for heaven's sake.

Well, now that I've finished my dinner of spam n' rice, I'll be headed out in about another hour since I've only got the one lesson with The Milds at 8.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Tuesday February 7, 1:41 p.m.

15 C, my shivering ass! It's 13 C inside my apartment. I say we post up a Danish flag on the Meterological Agency in Otemachi and have the Muslims attack that. Good golly...not even sunny out there and the weatherfolks had promised that, too. How could they botch this forecast so badly?

Speaking about that sad state of affairs, could you imagine a couple of weeks ago that Denmark would garner the same amount of hatred as the United States from the Islamic world? Two weeks ago, the only reaction you would have gotten from a Muslim if he'd been asked about the Nordic country would be "Isn't that the place they make the cheese?"

Paid off my ton of money to the government before heading out to The Beehive. It was rather interesting talking with the ladies today. Ms. Tulip gave me an in-house magazine from her daughter's language school in which the theme of the month was Akihabara. So we all got into the chatter about otaku and the maid cafes. Of course, the women showed varying degrees of disgust at the thought of having guys getting all googly-eyed and slabbery while they're served cutesy-style by these supposedly subservient girls. The topic then got into the phenomenon of subway gropers. Basically, we all wondered why all this is frankly a Japan-only thing. Well, the idea that Japanese men are basically spoiled and immature by cultural upbringing was floated. They're just acting out their fantasies of being served by women who'll never sass back or harangue on them about looking like slobs or smelling like a distillery. I just said what one of my classmates had once told me: Japanese men are all perverts. That got a round of hearty laughter and agreement. Ms. Tulip even added a bit of info for my data bank. Apparently, male students in elementary school over here often tease girls by pulling up their skirts and are never reprimanded. I can imagine the teachers chuckling and snickering that boys will be boys.

It's kinda ironic then that before all this stuff on the perverted Japanese male got started, we were all talking about this nationally-famous actor who had appeared on the NHK English-promoting program, "Eigo Shaberanaito" last night. His name is Hiroshi Tachi, and he has this veneer and reputation as a ladies' man from the old school....kinda looks like a James Bond candidate if the Broccolis decided to go for non-Caucasians. He's also part of Japan's equivalent of the Rat Pack: the Ishihara Gundan consisting of actors who were friends and associates of the legendary actor/singer Yujiro Ishihara who had died several years ago. Tachi played a hellraiser of a motorcycle cop in one of Ishihara's police shows back in the late 70s (just imagine "Hawaii Five-O" and you'll get the picture). Well, since those early days, he's gotten his own franchise called "Abunai Deka" (Dangerous Detectives), a comic/serious show of two rebellious tecs in a precinct. In that one, he took on the persona that he shows in public, that of an urbane Cary Grant type in well-tailored suits. He'd probably be mugged on the far grittier cop shows of the US but in Japan, his type does least with the more middle-aged of folks.

Still, I was rather surprised that Tachi could not only speak English but speak it pretty darn well. I found out that he'd been raised to be a gentleman in the old British traditions by his Anglophilic family and that the guy had some foreign girlfriends along with his Japanese ones. The Beehive was also quite impressed by this situation. I thought that a group like the Ishihara Gundan would've considered monolingualism a virtue. On the same show, I saw the female co-host, Yumiko Shaku (an actress who hadn't had much experience in the language before joining the program) do a fair job of an interview with Catherine Zeta-Jones. And R&B singer AI illustrated pretty quickly her upbringing in Los Angeles with her very natural "'hood" accent when interviewing one of the players from "Krumpin'". It's always interesting to see who can pull out the bilingual ability on this show.

Another one of those other pet peeves...this time at CNNj. They actually practice technical blackouts on "Anderson Cooper 360" due to international copyright constraints of some of their visual material. Well, why don't you guys get the necessary paperwork done so it doesn't look like I'm watching half a program?

Last thing to finish up on. Oooh, man...that lady who got the first face transplant....I hate to say it but she looks like a human/lamprey hybrid. Pretty gruesome way that she had to get that face. Her dog tears her old visage off by accident in its attempts to revive her from her own suicide attempt. I gotta think about how a woman with psychological problems is gonna cope with another person's face and the fact that she's gonna have to be on anti-rejection agents for the rest of her life.
Tuesday February 7, 7:28 a.m.

Well, although I saw a nice dusting of snow on the top of Yoyogi Stadium during the NHK broadcast this morning, my neighbourhood is just wet. Looks like we had that warm shield around Chiba. In any case, I think we'll be seeing some strangely Spring-like conditions for the rest of the week.

A couple of reasons I'm feeling rather cranky (aside from the fact that I've missed out on the snow...not so much that it isn't here but the fact that all the weather guys were howling about it for hours and yet nothing) now: I showed my further decline into Reaganville senility by erring on one word in my response to Speedy concerning this high-level student (and his friend) that I'm supposed to be working my so-called magic on tomorrow to get her to sign up with us. He pointed out the error...gently...I think he's finding out how prickly I can get. Still, I gotta think up of some dog-and-pony show for her.

The other reason is that The Siberian has cancelled out tonight due to his need to help some kid with an exam. Not particularly ticked off at him although that will mean I'm just going over to teach one hour with The Milds and McGirl...just the fact that he's helping a kid has brought up some of that resentment at how I finished up with The New Kid. Hope the punk fails miserably at Yoyogi Seminar! I'm also a little concerned that with The Beauty Pair now gone, The Milds might also be thinking about flying the coop once they notice that the girls are noticeably absent.

At the same time, I can take solace that I'm not director Lee Tamahori right now. Apparently, the director of the last James Bond movie was caught for soliciting some undercover male cop while dressed up in a wig and dress. I bet he's dying every day. What he needs is to appear on "The Tonight Show" and do a confession with Jay Leno like Hugh Grant did years ago.

Ahhh...another reason that I've woken up on the wrong side of the futon this morning. I've gotta pay my NHI and Citizen Tax premiums before the Beehive. Always paying Uncle Osamu....
Monday February 6, 9:35 p.m.

Caught "Hey, Hey, Hey Music Champ!" Glad I did, too. I saw a couple of acts which deserve mention. One was a group which seems to be coming back from the J-Pop archives: TRF (Tokyo Rave Factory, I think), the first offspring of the Komuro Family of the 90s. Apparently, after an absence of 7 years from the public eye, the techno singing/dance unit has come back with a new single. Forgot the title but the song has a bit of trance in it thereby giving it some currency but on first listen, it isn't particularly remarkable. Before I made my current stay in Japan possible, I had heard about TRF and how its club music was making inroads onto the mainstream charts. They had a good run for about 4 years before things finally petered out for them. One of the three dancers on the group happened to be Mr. Namie Amuro for a few years which produced one son.

The other act was Yuko Ando. I'd mentioned her sometime last week as this relatively new singer being groomed for stardom with her comfy songs and loopy delivery. According to tonight's appearance, that's not the only thing that's loopy about her. She struck me as being somewhat flaky. As the Downtown boys pointed out, she shuffled on camera like a pregnant woman and then started crying in the first few minutes just because she got a little too giddy. The boys weren't too amused. To her credit in another interview, she self-deprecatingly described herself as a dame ningen....a useless human. Well, her singing ability belies that but I kinda wonder about the rest of her. But Ando is not the first performer to come off as being not all there. I can mention names: pop/folk legend Miyuki Nakajima, Okinawan diva Cocco (though she has come off looking and sounding normal on one of her DVDs when talking to some kids) and actress Miwako Fujitani (who had a hit about a decade ago with another singer).

Found some meat to bite into after looking through the latest issue of METROPOLIS, the free weekly English-language magazine on all things entertaining in Tokyo. There was an article on Omotesando Hills which was designed by famed architect Tadao Ando and constructed by Minoru Mori, perhaps the biggest developer in Japan. After looking at a picture of the entire project, it just struck me as being the longest greenhouse with its roof sliced off. It's still early yet but the new development looks rather sterile and devoid of character...something that the old crumbly Dojunkai Apartments had in spades. But frankly the old girl was dying and there were doubts whether it would stand up to earthquakes after so many decades. So out it went and now we have this new glassy complex. It's literally a tip of a commercial iceberg. Apparently, it's a 12-storey mall in which the bottom six floors are all underground. Knowing Ando's liberal usage of stone slabs in his projects, I kinda wonder if the underground part is gonna feel more like a catacomb instead of a welcoming marketplace.

The other article of note was the last-page editorial called The Last Word in which the author gave a partial "I-told-you-so" account about Takafumi Horie who's now languishing in a tiny prison cell. The author, one Henry Scott Stokes, recalled trying to score an interview with the pudgy entrepreneur some years ago while he was still an up-and-comer and his firm was this tiny entity called Livin' On The Edge. He'd been waiting for quite a while when Horie finally showed up but, as he puts it, Stokes suddenly got cold feet and begged off the interview (rather strange). He repeatedly stated that he should have smelled a proverbial rat right then and there but didn't. Hmmm...the article struck me as being a bit of a manic-depressive account. Frankly, its timing doesn't inspire much in the way of being impressed. It may not be fair but it strikes me as being a "jump-on-the-Horie-bashing" bandwagon....perhaps not that Horie doesn't deserve it.

A follow-up on that newest scandal involving Toyoko Inn. A couple of weeks ago, it was found out that some of the inns had had facilities for handicapped people illegally converted for other uses. Well, it looks like no less 50% of the inns were discovered to have been altered. A much more chastened president did the usual bowing and scraping.

Well, the big snow has reached Shizuoka so it seems to be inexorably on its way to Tokyo. It'll probably hit overnight but it won't stay long. The forecast still calls for the mercury to hit a warm 15 C by afternoon. Felt a rather big bump by Mother Earth tonight but I guess it didn't rate enough to merit any mention on the TV.

Speedy has gotten back to me about that model lesson student for Wednesday after 001. She was one of the members at that 1st anniversary party on the 21st. We had never met but she's a friend of Speedy's. Interesting guy, that Speedy. He encouraged me to do my best but only after putting the pressure on me to score this one for the Gipper. Can't say I blame him, though. The school needs more students badly.

Anyways, gotta do the dishes.
Monday February 6, 6:24 p.m.

Well, the weather outside is not so frightful and I have no fire to make it delightful (apologies to the estate of Sammy Kahn) but there is noone yet to say "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!". As I was coming home today, the sky was an overcast gray but not oppressively so. In fact, I'd say that the sun had kinda diffused itself above the cloud cover. The weatherfolks still insist that we've got a 2-3 cm blanket of the white stuff coming our way from 7 p.m. at the earliest with 8 or 9 being the likeliest start time. Tomorrow's forecast looks absolutely schizo: I saw a low of 0 C, a high of 15 C, sun and then snow. Either someone at the Meterological Agency is having a bit of fun with the graphics or we're gonna have one heck of an occluded day.

The fact that I'm typing this at this time may give an indication that I don't have a class right now. Usually it would be the Part-Timer that I'd be teaching at this moment. Curse my eerie ESP-like insight! I did have a flash earlier today that I wasn't gonna be teaching her and sure enough after I checked my phone messages following my time at The Lady's grand mansion, I got two messages: one from a staffer at Speedy's saying that P-T cancelled out and then the second one from the woman herself stating in broken English that she's caught a cold and would therefore would be out of the running for tonight. I saved myself the time and subway fare to Speedys although I lost out on some income. In a way, I hope it does snow a lot so that I could rationalize that I was lucky enough to have a cancelled class to get home early. I'm still not totally convinced that we're gonna dumped on quite yet.

The full Class Act did show up. But The Matron informed us that her mother-in-law passed away some hours after the last lesson last week. The Lady and I expressed our condolences but The Matron said that her mother-in-law had lived a full life well into her 90s so there's not so much mourning as there is relief and satisfaction that her suffering is now done. The three of us didn't do any text work today but in a bit of surprise move after having talked at length about The Lady's generous appraisal of vacationing in Seoul, she propositioned us for a one-night trip in Korea sometime next month. It would be a gourmet tour of sorts...heading out to some of the good yakiniku restaurants in town...and The Lady with her particular taste should know some top-notch eateries. Frankly, with my finances, I'm not sure if I can pull my end off and I would feel rather guilty if The Lady had to pay my way (she could do it in a New York Minute) so part of me is hoping that this proposed class trip is just a mere flight of fancy to be forgotten by the next week.

Went to Wendy's again for lunch. That not-so-new girl is still hanging in there. There was a British couple making lovey-dovey noises on the solitary row of seats by the picture window. I sat far enough away to prevent myself from getting too disgusted but I could still hear the lip-smacking...and I don't think they were for the lunch fare.

SIL and I went on quite a tangential course in terms of conversation today. We went from talking about earthquakes to her search for a decent gym to a small world in which we found out that we both had occupied the same NOVA at about the same time a decade ago without meeting to the usual talk on pop culture. And we still managed to get through today's article. In fact, it was the article that launched our wayfaring talk.

Just as I was about to blog on, I got another chat from The Croissant who's safely back in the warmer clime of LA. We nattered on for about 45 minutes...quite a long time for me to chat. Still, it was very pleasant to do so and I had to admire her usage of emoticons of which she has in a lot more variety and imagination than I do. Looks like we may completely miss each other this year since she told me that she will definitely not come back for the summer ( I guess her earlier talk about doing so when we were all at the izakaya 10 days ago was just out of politeness' sake) and will come back over the Holidays for 2006...I just have to get back home this year for Xmas, lest I really want to write myself out of the family. I can accept my black sheep status but to be completely mura hachibu would be a very sad fate for me. In any case, part of our conversation was based on our ultimate desires to have worthy lives outside of family intervention or interference. It was interesting that the article for SIL was also based on having a passion for what one is doing instead of just worrying about the profits. The article did hit a kernel of truth that the young can afford to be poor at first and focusing on what one wants to do before settling down to making that big money. One can do all that passionate stuff and the money will naturally follow. A bit of a pollyannish slant since I've been doing this English biz now for almost 19 years and yet I'm still struggling with my finances but at least I'm still doing OK in my third year of freelancing.

The Wild Guy touched base with me. He and his girl are still doing fine. I guess they're still in the early phases of the relationship. He was asking about various people such as GC, Paddy and The Quarterback...two of whom I have virtually no contact with, and one that I get messages from sporadically.

I see that The Pittsburgh Steelers won The Super Bowl. If there were ever a team that would, it would be them. Didn't look like a blowout but neither did it looks like a particularly gripping game judging by the final score.

Some more to talk about but I do have dinner to consider and I've got to work on some more Speedy stuff as well as look at tomorrow's lessons before getting my mountain of ironing done. But NHK News is showing the snows coming down in Nagoya. I guess it'll just be a matter of time then but the skies are still clear right now at 7:15.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Monday February 6, 8:04 a.m.

Looks like that second predicted major snowfall is due this afternoon or tonight. We'll probably get around 3-5 cm here. I kinda wonder how that will affect my 3rd lesson with The Part-Timer. Tokyoites can be rather skittish about the white stuff.

Well, the Super Bowl should be starting around now in the States. No, it's not the national holiday that it is back Stateside but I'm sure at least some of the ex-pats here have suddenly caught the flu and headed to the nearest bar or TV set for some healing.

On Movie Buddy's blog, he mentioned that he and his girl had another fun time on the slopes. MB certainly has dove into skiing in a big way. Kinda like a kid with a new toy especially since the guy never experienced such literal depth of snow back in his own country. On the way to the resort, he also related that there was a comedian making merry on the bus. Apparently, MB was labeled as DeNiro. Apparently the comedian needed eye surgery badly.
Sunday February 5, 6:04 p.m.

Still pretty cold out there. In fact, the drainage hole on my balcony was thinly frozen over. A pot of hot water did the trick, though.

Not much to say. It's been another lazy Sunday. I did do another round of watching Biography on the History Channel. Looks like they were focusing on those stars from The Golden Age of Hollywood. Caught Bogie and Clark Gable. I guess it would be true that five different documentaries could be made on any of those legends and not only would a different angle be caught from each one but each one would still not get the whole story. I still keep learning new things about them. And it warms the heart of this aging author that Bogie finally got the love of his life at age 45 in the form of Lauren Bacall when she was just 20! Maybe some of those hoary Japanese male celebs robbing the cradle are not totally off their rockers after all.

Valentine's Day is just around the corner...well, it's still more than a week away. However, those fans of Morning Musume are already getting their own homemade cards and stuff ready to pronounce their love for the individual members. Good guy has put the name of one of them onto his license plate. Talk about devoted. I can just hear Olivia Newton-John's love ballad from "Grease" playing in the background. Of course, in the real world, the candy stores like Fujiya are getting into their annual act of putting out the heart-shaped chocs.

Just gonna cook up another stir-fry thingie and then prep for classes tomorrow.